Martin Horwood MP?
Our MP (subject to re-election) comments... crack
By the time you read this, it may all be over. On 6 May political dreams and nightmares will have been shattered or come true, both in Cheltenham and nationwide.
But how much was your vote actually worth?
Under our current voting system, it depends where you live. A fascinating study (www.voterpower.org.uk) has scored the value of votes in every constituency in the country, taking into account its size, how often it changes hands and how close the election battle is. In large, safe seats that haven’t switched since the Crimean War your voter power is feeble.
In the Cotswolds, Tory since the year dot, your vote counts for just 0.092, or nearly three times less than the national average. The best reasons to vote LibDem there are either a personal vote for a good local candidate or in furious protest at the grotesque unfairness of the system.
In Cheltenham, always a close and hard-fought race between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, you’ll be pleased to know you had the most powerful vote in Gloucestershire. With a NEF score of 0.831, ballots in Cheltenham packed nine times more political punch than in the Cotswolds. And candidates in Cheltenham undoubtedly have to listen to voters more carefully and work much harder as a result.
Another close marginal, Stroud, ranks only slightly behind Cheltenham. Traditionally Tory Tewkesbury scores a bit better than the Cotswolds with Gloucester and the Forest in the middle.
The system is obviously unfair to Labour voters in Cheltenham where Labour votes count for nothing, or Tory voters in other parts of the country like Newcastle or Liverpool where it’s the Lib Dems and Labour who are slugging it out. But even Tory voters in the Cotswolds are short-changed. So many Conservative votes stack up in rural seats like these – far more than they need to actually win them - that each one counts for less in the national result. They pile up by the tractorful but not in as many seats. Hence the oft-quoted mountain the Tories had to climb to win an overall majority in the General Election, even if they were ahead in the national vote. I can’t predict the result as I write but I can predict that there will undoubtedly be howls of protest at the unfairness of it all from one quarter or another.
The solution is obvious to me: a reformed electoral system that guarantees more value to each vote by creating multi-member seats where every voter has a much higher chance of making a difference.
Gloucestershire, if it still had six MPs, would count votes from the whole county and they would probably help to elect representatives from each party. So Labour voters could vote Labour in Cheltenham if they really still wanted to do so, just as the last remaining Tory voters in Newcastle could vote Tory there. Even Green and UKIP supporters would be able to take a reasonable punt at electing an MP in many places. Let’s have more power to all the people.